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Opposition Wants Ruling Party’s Response by End-May

A group of eight opposition parties called on the authorities on Thursday to give a written response to the proposals on electoral system reform, put forth by the group of eight last month, before the end of May.

The group of eight said in a joint statement on May 12, that in case of the authorities’ failure to give its response, “Mikheil Saakashvili will bear responsibility for thwarting negotiating process and its consequences.”

In that case, the group of eight said, “we will continue to struggle for holding free and fair elections in Georgia with the use of all the constitutional means.”

The group of eight says that end of May was defined in the beginning of the negotiations last November as a deadline for reaching an agreement on major principles of electoral system reform.

“We, the eight opposition parties, have stated for multiple times and again reiterate, that the government in Georgia should be changed through elections. In the electoral talks we represent a side having a joint position and call on the authorities to reach an agreement through public and transparent negotiations,” the statement reads.

“We call on Mikheil Saakashvili to stop attempts of maintaining power through unworthy methods and contribute to a political agreement on electoral issues within defined timeframe and rules.”

The group of eight also said that instead of contributing to the negotiations, the authorities were fostering “triggering of nihilism among the population towards the elections and moving processes into the streets.”

“By not coming to us for negotiations, the authorities are contributing to rise of revolutionary stance,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Movement, part of group of eight, said.

“When we receive a response [from the ruling party] by the end of May – no to everything or maybe yes on some proposals and no to others – that would define what the result of talks have been,” said Mamuka Katsitadze of the New Rights Party, part of the group of eight.

“If by the end of May there will be a zero result – meaning that there is no common ground, naturally there will be no continuation of talks,” Katsitadze said.

Irakli Chikovani of Our Georgia-Free Democrats said that if the sides failed to agree on major principles before the end of May it would mean that “the authorities have no political will” to improve the electoral environment in the country.

The ruling National Movement Party and a group of eight opposition parties, along with some Within ECWG parties were holding regular meetings between November, 2010 and March, 2011 in presence of representatives from the several non-governmental organizations, including Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA); International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED); New Generation-New Initiative (nGnI) and Transparency International Georgia.

The group of eight opposition parties, as well as some half a dozen other parties, has been engaged in talks on electoral system reform with the ruling party within the framework of the Election Code Working Group (ECWG) since November 2010, facilitated by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES). The last meeting was held on March 9. 

Recently the ruling party has said that it would engage in consultations “separately with individual parties”. The group of eight responded that it would agree on such consultations, but also said the group of eight would maintain unity in the negotiating process and continue speaking with one voice on the electoral issues with the ruling party. A meeting was held on May 4 between a negotiator from the group of eight and the ruling party to discuss prospects of future talks. The opposition representatives say that there have been no new developments since then.

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